How bad have things gotten for the movie industry? So bad that AMC Theatres, the planet’s biggest movie chain, says it could completely run out of money by the end of the year.
Early Tuesday, the company said that its cash on hand would be "largely depleted" by the end of 2020 or early 2021. It noted two reasons for that, including a "reduced movie slate for the fourth quarter" and "the absence of significant increases in attendance from current levels."
Holding out hope
Despite the dire picture and the misfortune of other movie chains, AMC thinks it has two ways out of its money problem. If more customers started buying tickets, that would help. So would finding new ways to borrow money.
However, the film industry isn’t helping to make that first wish happen. As an example, Sony Pictures said it’s not releasing movies that it thinks have big box office appeal -- like ‘Morbius’ and ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ -- until the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is over. Other filmmakers are following suit, pushing films like Marvel's "Black Widow" and the new James Bond "No Time to Die" to 2021.
Over at Universal, company brass have decided to take an alternate route of skipping coronavirus-shuttered theatres altogether by going direct to digital. That move paid off handsomely, with ‘Trolls: The World Tour’ raking in nearly $100 million in three weeks. Pixar also went the digital route, pulling "Soul" from theaters to debut on Disney's streaming service Disney+.
It can’t be said that AMC hasn’t tried to find something that works. Earlier this year, it reopened some of its theatres with a 15-cent ticket deal. After Universal did its end-around with ‘Trolls,’ AMC struck a deal with the film company that drastically shortened the length of time that films have to play in theaters before they can be parceled out for on-demand, rental, or for sale. That was apparently nothing more than a band-aid when the chain needed a giant tourniquet.
For the moment -- or until cash reserves completely dry up -- AMC is keeping 520 of its 600 locations open. If it can get people back inside, it promises a healthy and safe environment by requiring social distancing and mask wearing all the way up to high tech solutions like electrostatic sprayers, HEPA vacuums, and enhanced air filtration.